Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Doc Bizarre, M. D., which was published by Image and is cover dated October 2011. Enjoy!
Joe Casey and Andy Suriano’s Doc Bizarre, M. D. (with the notable Rus Wooton on letters) was a nice if not excellent comic, and we get a good taste of what it’s all about on the first page.
Casey lets us know that we’re in northern Romania, near the border with Ukraine, and we’re inside the estate of someone named “Offensteiner.” It’s odd that we only get the last name without an honorific – the dude is a doctor, after all. In the first panel, Casey tells us that this is going to be at least a somewhat humorous book, as Offensteiner tells “Alvin” that “master” is a bit outdated, but he still digs it. Alvin tells the doctor that “he” is sick, and Casey dutifully gives us the sick dude. Offensteiner is disturbed by his charge’s illness, and they need a medical professional. Without showing or naming the main character, Casey does a nice job introducing him a little, setting up the next page, where we meet the eponymous hero for the first time.
Suriano designs the page very well, as the panels fan out across the page like a … um … fan, although perhaps creepy fingers is a better metaphor. Suriano even tilts the first panel so that Offensteiner and Alvin are walking toward Panel 2 instead of directly down the center of the panel, so our eye naturally follows their line of walking (the shadows help) to Panel 2, where we see them in close-up. In Panel 2, Suriano makes them both stereotypical, but obnoxiously so, giving us more clues that we shouldn’t take this entire thing all too seriously. Offensteiner is bald and wears a good Teutonic monocle (despite the fact that we’re in Romania), while Alvin looks slightly sub-human but also comical, befitting his status in Offensteiner’s hierarchy and the slight silliness of the book itself. Offensteiner is opening a door into the subject’s cell, but you’ll note that because of the way Suriano tilts the panels, he’s not only looking ahead to something we can’t see in that panel, but also toward Panel 3, where we can see what he sees. The subject has gone all fetal on the doctor, and we see instantly that he’s a parody of Frankenstein’s monster. What is slightly bizarre about this panel is that on first glance, it looks like he’s crouching, but closer inspection show that he’s lying on the floor. This is where Suriano’s inventiveness works against him a bit – we’re looking straight down on the creature, but the doctor’s gaze in Panel 2 doesn’t prepare us for that point of view – we’re expecting to look into the cell at Offensteiner’s level, so we have to adjust our perceptions to “read” this panel. I know why Suriano did it this way – he wants to show the entire creature, and he wouldn’t be able to do it any other way – but it’s still a bit odd. Finally, the fourth panel zooms in on Offensteiner’s face, with the saliva in his mouth and the sweat on his face, ramping up the emotion in a parodic way – what the doctor says isn’t particularly exciting, but Suriano’s extreme close-up (which recalls Kirby a bit, if you’ll notice) makes us react emotionally to a rather mundane statement. It’s another weird choice, but one that works. You’ll notice that the base colors of this page are green and orange, making the entire page look sickly, reflecting the illness of the creature himself. Suriano’s colors in this book are wonderful, and this is a good example of that.
Casey kicks off the book with a lot of information, and Suriano gives it a nice, unusual look. There are certainly worse ways to start a comic book!
Next: Something you’ve probably never heard of … unless you read this blog six years ago! Nobody is crazy enough to read this blog for six years, right? Plus, we’re now halfway through the year. You didn’t think I’d make it this far, did you? Be honest! Review the first half of this series in the archives!
Okay, since July has started, I need your help with my next theme month! Someone a while back suggested this (I can’t remember who, so forgive me for not naming you), and I thought it was a good idea: seven days of the same writer-artist combination. So I’m going to ask you which writer-artist combinations you’d like to see featured here. Some caveats: First, I want to do writer-artists duos, not just a writer/artist as a single creator. I think it will be more fun that way. Second, I think the writer and artist should have at least 25 issues together under their belts. That will allow more variety, and not just seven issues in a row, with those issues being the only ones they worked on together. You can certainly pick creators who worked together on more than one title, but they must add up to 25 issues. For instance, you can nominate Morrison/Quitely, who have worked on a lot of different books. I kind of hope they don’t get enough votes because I’ve already featured both of them, but I will certainly bow to will of the readers if they do! Third and finally, always keep in mind that I actually have to own the issues. I might be able to borrow some from my retailer as I did in June, but I don’t want to rely on him. Obviously, you have no idea what I own and what I don’t, but if you pick a writer-artist combination that I just don’t have, I’ll have to skip them. I don’t know if the arbitrary number of 25 issues is too much (would 20 be better?), but let’s give it a try! So start listing the two creators you want to see, and I’ll let you know when I reach the point where I’m ready to start writing August’s entries and don’t need them anymore. Have fun!